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second book syndrome


Seriously it is like the big elephant in the room ... or the big elephant not in the bookstore. Even my mum didn't buy as many copies as she did of Book One. Meanwhile I have been waiting patiently for the barrage of beautiful press but I'm starting to look around now. I'm starting to twitch. My publicist reckons YA literature is giving 'the media' a soft-on. It's just not sexy. Richard Flanagan is sexy! Baz Luhrmann is sexy! But six months ago YA was sexy -  Golden, even. And now ... It's like there is too much of it or it's become too much of itself. YA is too much with us!

The answer, I think, is to write something as if no one's going to read it. Book Three - you've got your work cut out for you. Book Two, I'm sorry. It's not that you're terrible it's just that you're second. You are my Jan Brady. 



back and forward



The launch for Everything Beautiful was about as warm and fuzzy and fuss-free as an anxious writer could hope for. Readings St Kilda - you are all charm*. First children's buyer Callie said some lovely things, then writer Kirsty Murray said some lovely things* then I read out the almost-sex-scene between Riley and cad/youth-leader Craig ... then I signed some books, met some people, ate some cupcakes, drank some champers, ate some Japanese and was home before 10pm. Wild!  Here is a photo of Kirsty saying lovely things** and me in defensive pose like any minute she's going to turn around and say ... NOT! (Thanks to Megan for the photo)



This week I received two of the most lovely emails from readers, they made me feel all buzzy  .. um ... privileged and humbled and just so lucky that I have been able to write something that has made a positive impact on another human bean's life. Looking back: When I was fused to a barstool at the Punters Club hotel circa 1993 (in requisite flannel shirt)  i don't believe I ever thought I would affect anyone, anyhow. Looking forward: I've started three new projects in as many months like a girl going through an identity crisis. Now I have to choose which one is going to be the next one... and if the money runs out, I can always go back to selling books on eBay ...

Driving home today we passed a second hand book fair. Untold spoils.



And this afternoon I drank peach tea in the sun and finished E Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (fabulous!) to the strains of W on the baby piano that has no minor keys. Happiness.
******************************************************************************************************************************************************
*if you are in Melbourne seeking fine books, go there, friend.

**Like this: Riley Rose is everything beautiful in a girl. She is anything but appropriate and i doubt she has much vision of eternity. But she has the world in her heart, that's for sure.

***EB comes from the Ecclesiastes 3:11: He hath made everything beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end (King James version). Kirsty noted that the New American Standard Bible says: He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end...

 ... like, way to bleach the thing of all poetry ...

this week's haul




1. Home-recorded videos. Imagine you bought a home-recorded video from an op-shop and pressed play and got something quite the opposite from what you were expecting. This happened to me! The first one was ok - it said it was a Robert Mapplethorpe documentary and it was a Robert Mapplethorpe documentary - and a good one at that. But I put in video #2 expecting to see Tender is the Night starring Jennifer Jones and Jason Robards - instead I got Guilty as Sin, all 80's-saxophone and venetian blinds starring Rebecca de Mornay and Don Johnson. Don Johnson plays a lothario (of course!) - "I've lived off of women all my life ..." accused of murder. Rebecca de Mornay is a high-powered defense attorney who takes his case - she's attracted to him, sure, but she's a professional, dammit. Will she get him off or will she get him off? Truly choke-worthy ... And after THAT came a show called 'Erotic Tales' starring Claudia Karvan as an artist's model ushered into the twilight world of Sapphic love.  She is nude a lot. Alex Cox directed. We haven't watched videos #3 and #4 yet but I'm optimistic.

2.Oh, cute. Be your own printer. The stamp pad has dried out but the stamps are good - a tree, a sun, a boy, a girl, a train, a plane, a car, a cat, a dog and a house. 50 cents!

3. World Record Club 45. When We Very Young - stories of A. A Milne read by David Tomlinson, who according to the notes: "has the rare ability to talk intimately to small children on their own level without appearing patronising." Slightly warped, but still playable.

c'mon you videoheads


No video responses!? C'mon people! I'm not asking for Apocalypse Now, I'd be happy with a talking hand. Make your own memory cross! Film the inside of your bag! (I have heard tell that the link is not working - if you go to youtube and search under 'simmonehowell', ye shall find me...) As for the camp horrors, I revealed on 3CR yesterday that one time at Christian camp I got my period while white-water rafting. As for the meanings of life, keep 'em coming.

I am resisting the urge to blog because I want lots of entries. This means that by the end of November there will be a veritable tsunami of wit and pith and dodgy film recommendations. You have been warned.

Also: I will be on 3RRR's Aural Text  this Wednesday talking EB (and possibly periods) with those word-nerdy muppet-happy fiends Alicia Sometimes and Steve Grimwade. Sometime between 12 and 2pm. Catchya.

book trailer and competition!


This is my one-handed DIY lofi book trailer for Everything Beautiful. What do you think? Does it tantalise ... or frustrate? That's a map of the little desert at the start where the novel is set and the quotes are from the book.



And now for the competition: Thanks to the lovely folk at Pan Macmillan, I have three signed copies of Everything Beautiful to give away.

1)One goes to whoever makes the best video response to my trailer

2)one goes to the most tragically humiliating real life camp story.

3)one goes to the most interesting response to this question: what makes your life meaningful?


Post your vids on the youtube site (pending approval) and post your dodgy camp stories and meaningfulness in the comments here. The competition will run until the end of November ... Spread the word and Best of British luck!

epigraph happy


I am for epigraphs. Sadly I cannot always afford them. Epigraphs do more than set the theme, I think, they are like a window into 'further reading'... In the rebel days of Vandal Press we didn't care about copyright and so we were epigraph-happy.

From high:
'He realises that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of a girl"
(Camus The Myth of Sisyphus)

to pop:
'I went back to the store They gave me four more The guy told me at the door It's a piece of crap'
(Neil Young)

Usually when I'm writing I stockpile quotes. For Everything Beautiful I had a couple that could have worked but in the end I didn't use them. They were:

'I am large, I contain multitudes'
(Walt Whitman, Song of myself)

'Repair is the dream of the broken thing'
(Silver Jews We are Real - from their album American Water which seriously contains so many astounding lines - lines like platforms, really - that it is never far from my ears)

'It is all part of an infinite world of aggression and retreat, survival and oblivion, regeneration and death'

(Colin Thiele - The Little Desert - v. inspirational text)

EB contains quotes/material from other literary sources. Most notably Utopia by Sir Thomas More (free because it's 15th century) and Anne Sexton (150 pounds!) The epigraph for Notes from the Teenage Underground (Dostoyevsky) cost 100 pounds.

Here is my favourite epigraph:
You need a man to go to hell with - Tuesday Weld
(from Barry Gifford's Wild at Heart.)

What's yours?

Launching!*


Event | Saturday 15 November 2008 at 4:00pm
Simmone Howell book launch

Everything Beautiful will be launched by the fabulous Kirsty Murray!

Readings St Kilda: 112 Acland St, St Kilda, Victoria, 3182

Riley Rose doesn't want to be at Spirit Ranch Holiday Camp. Riley wants to be partying with her best friend Chloe at the beautiful Ben Sebatini's house. But is everything at the Spirit Ranch as it appears? What secrets are waiting for discovery in the abandoned Fraser house? And why doesn't anyone want to talk about the accident that landed the mysterious Dylan in a wheelchair last year?

Everything Beautiful is a love story about the broken and the broken-hearted from the award-winning author of Notes from the Teenage Underground.

This is a free event and I am going to make cupcakes.


light at the end of a long day


Some days, I ask you. Nothing hugely wrong just lots of little not-quite-rights ... I fell asleep at the office! Just as well because the writing was not coming (and why should it? What have I done to encourage it lately?) I'm not going to write until the words are fighting to come out. I'm going to loll. And read things. So I decided to buy some mandarin sours to cheer myself up and as I was walking past the bookshop I spied Donald Rawley's The Night Bird Cantata in the bargain bin. I read his first collection Slow Dance along the Fault Line when I was heavy in my LA fiction stage, and it's beautiful and sad and elegant and inspiring. Then I read on his bio that he died in 1998. I don't believe in ghosts, but I'd forgotten all about Donald Rawley and now I feel like he's giving me a little nudge.



Today we found a sweet 70s cassette player (National Panasonic with record option!) and now w can listen to his op shop cassettes wherever he wants. His faves are Inti Illimani's Songs of the Andean Indians, Cab Calloway singing Minnie the Moocher, Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and The Adventures of Christopher Robin. Did you know there is cassette library in Darwin? The Darwin Visual Arts Association accepts donations. Such a cool idea: "Mixed tapes, language tapes, spoken word tapes, story tapes, tapes you pretend were never yours". I have added their website as a link.



I went to see Patti Smith's instore at Readings on Friday. She was great, talking about her favourite books and how the artist has to be in the moment and keep creating despite world turmoil. I didn't get to see Dream of Life, will have to wait for the DVD release. I got Patti to sign my Piss Factory 45. (I loved it the second I heard it ... so powerful and inspiring.) And I gave her a copy of NFTU, just because. Because it's about art and influence ... and because Patti Smith is so clearly one of Gem's formidable femmes. And anyway I think it would make a good plane read.

And speaking of art and influence I have also added a link to a fabulous essay by Jonathan Lethem called "The Ecstasy of Influence', and another to Shedworking.co.uk which has the most awesome sheds you could imagine (thankyou Alex for the link)

Hope you are having a good lazy Sunday.

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